In the early 1800s, Priessnitz, while watching his grazing flock, noticed a wounded doe, injured by hunters, wade into the calm backflow waters of a mountain brook. The following gives us a history of how his curiosity changed his life.
“He wondered as the doe limped away and disappeared in the forest. That night he decided there must be a reason for a wounded animal to seek water to lave [wash, bathe] its wounds. Perhaps instinct was stronger than reason. He would return the next day. He did.
“Sure enough the doe returned to the eddying water at about the same time. It stood silently, without a move, and then after awhile limped to the bank and disappeared in the deep foliage of the forest once more. For two weeks the lad Vincent Priessnitz returned daily to his vantage point and watched. For two weeks the wounded doe returned and bathed its injured leg in the brook. Each day the deer walked better and finally scampered out of the water on the last day to return no more.
“Before his very eyes he had seen a badly injured deer healed with cool sparkling brook water. Vincent Priessnitz never forgot that experience.
“Some years later Priessnitz was injured severely hauling cord wood. Night stole upon him, as did a heavy snow storm. His team bolted through a gulch. The load slipped and his ribs were crushed.
“But while he lay there he had time to reflect on what to do. A doctor was out of the question on a night like that. No help was forthcoming. Somehow he managed to get home.
“No, he could not soak his injured ribs in water as the deer had done with its leg. He conceived the idea of wrapping the injured ribs with pieces of his torn shirt soaked in cold water. This relieved him. He continued to apply cold wet wrappings and in due course his ribs were free from pain and healed.
“The news of his accomplishment spread. When a neighbor became injured he called for the young man who healed with water. Requests for aid became more frequent and further from home, and his experience grew apace.
“He gave the matter of his discovery, which had meant so much to himself and others much thought. He tried various applications with varying degrees of success. Empirically by trial and error he evolved a method or system of cold water treatment that brought help to thousands.
“He opened a modest place where people could stay. In a matter of months it became the haven of the sick. His fame spread to every corner of the globe. He treated prince and pauper alike. The medical big wigs of the day protested and closed his doors. To his patients, called to the center of the square, he said, ‘be undismayed. If they will not let me use water we shall find a cure in air.’
“He was persecuted and prosecuted. By trickery and scheming the medical fraternity sought to discredit him. The people who had been healed were evidence against any wrong doing he was accused of. The final gesture was the claim that the water was drugged. The State found he used only pure mountain water.
“To end all persecution the State decreed that no one should ever molest him, that he be permitted to heal the sick as he had been doing.
“Grafenberg became a shrine for the ill. People traveled to it from all over the world. Some of the best records we have came from the pen of Americans who crossed the ocean to take the ‘cure.’
“In 1842, twelve hundred patients from all over the world visited and were cared for at his institution at Grafenberg. During the years 1849, 1850 and 1851, the number of patients rose to as high as fourteen hundred, and came from as many as thirty different countries, such was his fame. …
“Priessnitz’s work was absorbed by other systems which followed as the Kneipp and Bilz system and so on, until we find at the turn of the twentieth century an American Hydro-therapy fostered by the genius of the late John Harvey Kellogg of Battle Creek Sanitarium fame. …” The Cold Water Cure, pg i, ii, by Vincent Priessnitz, 1843. Reprinted by Kessinger Publishing’s Rare Reprints.
There are instances in the Spirit of Prophecy where water treatments were used. Here are several:
“I am generally up hours before any other member of my family. On rising I build my fire, take a bath in cold water before the fire, and then, after my praying season, take my pen in hand and, from two o’clock until seven, write many pages. We have family prayers just before breakfast, which is at half past seven. I generally retire at seven o’clock in the evening.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 14, 259.
“If you feel that you must eat at night, take a drink of cold water, and in the morning you will feel much better for not having eaten.” Counsels on Diet and Foods, 177.
“Do not sit in a meeting with cold feet. If the feet are cold, wash them in cold water, and then dry them thoroughly. You will find that the blood will thus be called from the head to the limbs.” Sermons and Talks, vol. 2, 142.
Amazing what a little water can do. Praise God for all of His blessings!